Even if you can’t be with me for my Aspen Food and Wine Classic Class, check out a list of the beautiful Portuguese wines that I poured!
Even if you can’t be with me for my Aspen Food and Wine Classic Class, check out a list of the beautiful Portuguese wines that I poured!
There are times when my job just seems so, so hard.
Like that time I had to visually admire and then subsequently taste through an exquisite box of chocolates, then pair them with some even more exquisite wine.
But I do it, just for you, and for the class I’m teaching at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic this weekend.
It’s easy to feel spoiled when you start off with beautiful chocolates. Each of these chocolates from Delysia Chocolatiers was a work of art and almost too beautiful to eat.
White peach balsamic chocolate truffle : White chocolate infused with sage, white peach balsamic vinegar, and bits of dried Texas peaches.
Gianduja: Rare Italian confection. Layers of white, milk, and dark chocolate blended with hazelnut and almond marzipan.
Lemon cream chocolate truffle: Bittersweet chocolate enrobed around a lemon cream white chocolate center infused with orange zest and candied ginger.
Candied butterscotch chocolate truffle: White chocolate blended with butterscotch, then studded with bits of candied ginger, hazelnuts, and orange in a dark chocolate shell.
Raspberry hibiscus rose chocolate truffle: Milk chocolate infused with rosehips, hibiscus, and raspberries, infused with a piece of hibiscus petal in its center.
Pecan cayenne dark chocolate bark: Dark chocolate blended with Texas grown pecans and spicy cayenne peppers.
Spiced wine berries chocolate truffle: Featuring the Vintage Porto used for this pairing, bittersweet chocolate spiked with Quinta do Vale Meao Vintage Porto, spices of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and bits dried blueberries, cherries, and cranberries.
Coffee dark chocolate bark: Bittersweet chocolate blended with coarsely ground arabica coffee.
In case you missed it, March 24th was a fun day of wine tasting. My class – Classic Sips and Creative Bites was the largest class we’ve ever had and thanks to the impressive crew at Sessions at the Presidio, it was another ROUSING success. The wines flowed like water, Chef Bilger prepared sumptuous nibbles for us to enjoy and Jordan Spaulding, Sessions’ Cicerone, proved to us that beer is as complex as any glass of wine.
We tasted wines from around the globe and as usual I was changing the wine list up until the very last minute… there’s just so much to taste. We started with a variety of bubbles, matched with my favorite pairing, popcorn. Nothing complements a beautiful glass of sparkling wine better than the salty bite of popcorn, especially since Chef Bilger created three types of popcorn that were to die for. A Francophile, with thyme butter and truffle salt, the Iberian, with olive oil, lemon zest and pimenton and the Mumbai with madras curry and ghee.
I selected five different bubbles, but two favorites included the affordable, crisp and elegant Gratien & Meyer, Brut Rosé, Cremant de Loire, France ($15) and the crowd-pleasing Mionetto Brut Prosecco, Treviso DOC, Italy (in magnum $30). Our other super-star sparklers were the elegant J Rosé , Sonoma County, California $45 and the surprising New Mexico bubbly from French wine producer Gruet $17.
The beer chosen by Jordan, the Magnolia – Aliciella – Botanical ESB, was an herbaceous contrast that paired amazingly with all of the snacks, but especially with the spices in the Mumbai Popcorn.
Our first pairing after we got everyone to sit down and I finished telling everyone about my broken ribs… a long but funny story, just ask me some day… we paired a decadent pork belly with a 2016 Bodegas Ramon Bilbao Rosado, Rioja Spain ($18 – 20) and the 2014 The Calling Chardonnay, Sullivan Vineyard, Dutton Ranch, Sonoma ($44 – 46) as well as Jordan’s pick, the Ninkasi – Dawn of the Red – Red IPA
These tastings paired beautifully with the richness of the pork and the citrusy tang of the kumquats.
Our next course we experimented with a farmhouse cheese plate and another rosé, the 2016 Benovia Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River, Sonoma ($22 – 24). We also had the privilege of tasting the 2014 Goldeneye Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, Napa ($84 – 86) and the Modern Times – Lomaland – Farmhouse Saison.
They complemented and contrasted with the freshness of certain cheeses and the strong flavors of the others.
Steak tartare was to follow, paired with delicious wines, and another rosé! I was on quite the pink kick, and showcasing the different varietals that rosé can be made from and how it changes the complexity and flavors of the wine, especially with food! The 2014 Addendum, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa ($90 – 94) was an elegant choice and the 2016 Chateau Bonnet Rosé of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux ($16 – 18) actually went so fast on the tables that we couldn’t even get a picture of it. Our beer selection with the tartare was the Bosteels – Tripel Karmeliet – Belgian Tripel.
The true masterpiece of the evening though was Chef Bilger’s Stilton Cheesecake. Sweet yet savory it paired amazingly well with the Taylor Fladgate 325th Anniversary Port, Portugal ($30 – 32) and a Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale from Cicerone Spaulding.
The party continued as Sessions helped make reservations on a busy Saturday night for our class-goers but as usual with this crowd there wasn’t a single.drop.left at the end of the night. Uber certainly made some money off of us!
Want to see more Leslie and Jordan?
We are all looking for that romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s to escape for the weekend with your honey from the ice and snow of winter, to cozy up together in a rustic cabin or just even to get away for the night to take a well-needed break, we all would love to sneak away to a romantic destination. Enjoy my list of some of the most romantic destinations in the country, along with some incredible Valentine’s Day bubbles to pair with your stay!
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC is one of the most romantic destinations in the country on any given day but during the month of February, the Biltmore turns the romance up a notch. With their Valentine’s Day Package, you and your sweetie can enjoy the ultimate romantic getaway. Enjoy a 3 course meal in the The Dining Room, the Estate’s most exclusive dining experience or even take dinner in the privacy of your own room! Roses, chocolates, and wine complete the romantic experience in the historic home of the iconic Vanderbilt Family. Call book online here.
With an actual vintage year, the Moet & Chandon 2008 Grand Vintage Rosé is a unique bottle of champagne and an example of the best of that year’s harvest. This “pink” champagne is actually more gold in color and has a powerful aroma of tropical fruits and nectarines. Finish up with a refreshing taste of grapefruit and ginger and this pink champagne is going to have you and your significant other sipping pretty, in pink.
Named one of the romantic towns in the US, don’t let winter in Sag Harbor, NY fool you. Once a thriving port, it is now known for its waterfront resort qualities, meandering tree-lined streets, 18th and 19th century architecture and casually sophisticated way of life. On foot, stroll up and down Main Street to discover singular boutiques, galleries, and local museums, or dine at the most widely-acclaimed restaurants in the Hamptons. By boat, explore the stunning local waterways, coves, and marinas. Or drive just minutes to a surprisingly deep array of wineries.
Baron’s Cove provides a romantic escape harborside with their To Sag Harbor with Love package that includes a romantic dinner, champagne, chocolate and deluxe accommodations in this award winning waterside resort. Cozy up fireside and enjoy all that this quaint harbor town has to offer!
This gorgeous champagne is intensely fruity and aromatic, due to it’s blending of french Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A little spice paired with floral notes make this worth the splurge.
For those that are looking for some snuggle time and maybe some together time on the slopes as well, Middlebury, VT is the place to go. Middlebury is also home to several breweries and wineries so watch the snow fall over a glass of wine or IPA. The Middlebury Inn celebrates love and snuggling with their Romance in New England package that includes champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, an intimate breakfast for two and a candlelit dinner. Cozy up in the cold weather and enjoy New England at it’s snow-covered finest.
A deal at $24 a bottle, this elegant sparkling rosé is a delightful pink color with berry, cherry and watermelon flavors. This sparkling wine is also excellent in cocktails, like the Rose Rosa Rosé!
If you’re looking to heat things up a little, head down south to the St. Regis, Mexico City. Set in an urban oasis located in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, the hotel has several romance themed packages to share with your loved one.
For a quick getaway, the hotel’s “Celebrate Love” package includes a one night stay, a 60-minute couple’s massage, a romantic dinner for two with Möet Chandon Rosé, and in-room breakfast with a mimosa. They also offer incredible romantic dining packages, like the La Vie en Rose, which includes a 4 course menu paired with what else, rosé!
Charles Heidseick’s Rosé Reserve is a classic example of pink champagne. A dusty pink color with a delicate sparkle, this gorgeous wine smells of fresh strawberries and gingerbread. This wine is powerful and stylish, as anything French must be.
It’s all about romance in Wine Country – And the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa has hearts all a flutter: Inspired overnight packages, rejuvenating spa treatments and amorous dining adventures are sure to send any relationship into over-drive. The romantic Inn celebrates with a sweetheart of a deal; the unmatched Wine, Roses and Romance package. Bon vivants will bubble over unparalleled romance-inspired accommodations, sparkling wine and chocolate covered strawberries amenity, rose petal turndown, complimentary sparkling wine tasting passes for two at Gloria Ferrer Winery and breakfast either at the resort or in the privacy of your room or suite. Take advantage of the Willow Stream Spa and their Valentine’s Day themed offers, such as a Chocolate Facial or a Chocolate Chardonnay Pedicure!
Alfred Gratien Brut Rosé is the definition of erotic. With floral notes that invoke rose petals strewn across a bed, it sparkles energetically, making it perfect to sip and savor in front of a roaring fire. Watch those bubbles sparkle in the firelight as you enjoy it’s slightly smoky finish. This is perfect to enjoy on Valentine’s Day, savoring the wine and the one you love.
Last and certainly not least, show a different kind of love this Valentine’s Day. During the California Wildfires the town of Ojai was saved by heroic firefighters from the devastation. As they welcome visitors back to their beautiful valley, the hotels of Ojai have banded together to raise money for those who have been impacted by the Thomas Fire. By booking the Ojai Love package at any of the participating hotels, you’ll receive 10% OFF the best available rate & exclusive discounted access to some of Ojai’s best restaurants, shops & activities! Plus a $10 donation per night will be made in your name to help those who have been affected.
Either west coast or east coast, warm weather or snow, wherever you choose to celebrate this Valentine’s Day, make sure to do it with a delicious glass of bubbles and someone you love.
It’s always a fun time when I pair up with Ray Ilse from Food & Wine and we pick wines for the Today Show. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching and spring nowhere in sight (except at my house in California), we chose a few winter wines to enjoy for the rest of the cold season, and a few Valentine’s Day wines to snuggle up to your honey with. All of these wines are under $25 and watch the video following to see what delicious food to pair with some of them as well!
2016 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc, France, $17, Guigal
An affordable French white crafted with a blend of primarily Viognier with Roussanne and other Rhone white grapes, this is a top value from a storied Rhône Valley producer. With melon and citrus notes, it’s a winter white wine to serve with anything gracing the table.
2016 Ponzi Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $19, Ponzi Vineyards
If this luscious yet crisp wine was an item of clothing, it would be a sleek winter-white dress that pairs with any occasion. The same is true for Ponzi’s Pinot Gris, which matches dishes from squash soup to grilled fish. The Ponzi sisters, Maria and Luisa, are wine mavens in charge of this classic Oregon winery. Their vibrant personalities are reflected in this joy-to-sip white.
Medici Ermete I Quercioli “Secco” Lambrusco, Italy, $14, Kobrand Wine & Spirits
Yes, it’s deeply, intensely red in color, and it’s sparkling. But Medici’s I Quercioli Lambrusco isn’t sweet at all, and it’s a superb match for rich winter dishes. Pasta bolognese and this…you’re talking perfection.
2015 Peachy Canyon “Incredible Red” blend, California, $15, Peachy Canyon
When winter weather is whirling outside, stay inside with a hearty dish and a big glass of something incredible. This juicy Zinfandel-based blend sports full-bodied flair, dark fruit flavors, and a peppery kick. Serve alongside braised meat dishes, mushroom risotto, or pulled pork.
NV Mionetto “Cuvee Anniversario” Valdobiadenne Prosecco, Italy, $24, Mionetto USA
Kick off the romantic evening with this limited-release sparkler from one of the most well-known Prosecco producers in Italy. It’s history in a glass. Dry, crisp and lively, it’s great for a romantic toast. The bottle is stunning, too, making it the perfect gift for your Valentine.
2016 Sanford Rosé, Sta. Rita Hills, California, $22, Sanford Winery
Not only is this rosé a delicious partner for most meals, it’s elegant and beautiful to look at…just like your Valentine. Crafted by one of California’s legendary producers with Pinot Noir from two estate vineyards, including the historic Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, this is a serious pink but also seriously fun to sip.
2015 Charles Smith Wines “Velvet Devil” Merlot, Washington, $14, Charles Smith Wines
When you want to walk on the wild side, look for wines from Charles Smith. This whimsical Washington red is a rich, luscious Merlot with dark berry fleshiness. Come on, who doesn’t want to get a little devilish on Valentine’s Day?
Graham’s “Six Grapes” Reserve Port, Portugal, $24, Premium Port
End the evening in sultry style with this opulent yet elegant dessert sipper from one of the famed producers of Port. W. & J. Graham’s dates to 1820 and is a producer that marries tradition with innovation. I adore their Six Grapes Port for its high quality and affordable price. It’s a decadently smooth and lightly sweet wine to finish a meal in sexy style.